Love + discipline + Godly instruction = good kids. Is that your expectation in parenting? I think it tends to be mine–not explicitly, but functionally.
According to Julie Lowe of CCEF (Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation), this formula is a “faulty, unbiblical approach” to parenting because “children do not come to us as blank slates, but with their own personalities, strengths, weakness, desires, and temptations towards particular sin.” Therefore, though we as parents certainly have a huge role in shaping and shepherding the hearts of our children, we do not ultimately control the outcome.
This has been a challenge for my wife and I especially in attempting to parent our adopted daughter with Down Syndrome. I don’t know how many times I’ve said with great exasperation to my friends: “We’re trying everything, but nothing is working! Nothing seems to be changing in her.” In other words, I’m doing the love plus discipline plus instruction, but I’m not getting a “good kid” as the result. The formula isn’t working.
The two things Julie suggests in place of this formulaic approach are: 1) “Evaluate your motivation,” and 2) “Remind yourself of what God calls you to as a parent—no more, no less.” I was greatly convicted and challenged in thinking about what motivates my parenting of my special daughter. And I was greatly comforted in being reminded of what God calls me to, and what is His part alone. Julie says: “Though God expects you to parent with consistent love and wisdom, he does not hold you responsible for results that are driven by the child’s sin or rebellion.” Or, in our case, God does not hold us responsible for results that are driven by what was cemented in our child through her formative years in an orphanage. It is not up to us to undo all that has been formed in her through her history. It is up to us to love her, model Christ to her, and respond with wisdom and grace to her struggles.
[You can read Julie’s blog post on the CCEF website.]